Veteran sports car driver Don Kitch, Jr., teaches a One-Day High Performance Driving Clinic in Kent, Washington, at the Pacific Raceways track. His tips are designed for everyday drivers as well as race enthusiasts, and some of them are surprisingly simple.
Here are his top six tips as reported in AAA’s Western Journey Magazine:
- Keep your hands in the 9:00/3:00 position. Some of us were taught 10:00/2:00, we can assume a racing expert knows what he’s talking about. This basic rule many of us were taught at 16 is a good start to maintaining control of your car.
- Scan the road ahead. Kitch’s safety course requires drivers to maneuver around cones, while also keeping an eye out for a sign coming ahead. The advice is to aim high – AAA recommends scanning 20-30 second ahead of your position – which gives you more crucial reaction time.
- Be aware of your situation – Kitch believes most accidents can be avoided if you keep an eye on your surroundings. Monitor the traffic around you – this allows you to spot hazards, or plan escape routes.
- Know your brakes – If you’ve ever had to stop suddenly and been surprised at how close you came to another car, you understand the lesson of getting a feel for your brakes. If you can, find a chance to safely test how your car reacts when you brake at high speed. Those with antilock brake systems (ABS) may also want to practice braking while steering away.
- Know your steering wheel – Kitch says it’s usually safer to steer around an obstacle than to try to brake in front of it. If you’re on a narrow road with now shoulder or a step drop off, keep in mind the need to increase your driving distance to give you extra reaction time.
- Have patience. We’ve all had moments of frustration when trapped behind a slow driver, but following too closely or getting caught up in the frustration will take your mind off your need to be aware of your surroundings.
Many of these tips seem so obvious we may think we don’t need to think about them. But given how many people admit to texting while driving, just committing to keeping both hands on the wheel and watching the road ahead may be half the battle won.